Sunday, July 31, 2005

Things I was thinking while trying to distract myself from the frustration of building a crappy bookcase

Earlier today, I bought this beautiful bookcase. It's huge and has handsome glass doors and should provide a fine display for some of the nicer looking books I've accumulated over the years. I like books---even if my reviews of the baseball ones are more infrequent than I prefer.

Hours ago, I was very excited about this bookcase. And then I noticed the directions were written in Slavic. Well, they are on a certain functional level, because they don't make no sense, Brandine. The only other explanation I can conjure at the moment is that
the designer is the same guy who invented rack-and-peanut steering.

I began distracting myself in an attempt to deflect my disdain and frustration; invariably, I began thinking about the Washington Nationals, who
did something extraordinary today, actually winning a game.

How hopelessly predictable had this July slide become? I think
Nationalz put it best after Friday's 4-3 loss to the Marlins:

Nats fans, be prepared. There was a shocking result to the opening game of the Marlins-Nats matchup: the Nats lost a 1-run game. I am completely serious.

Or maybe
Rocket over at Nasty Nats had:

Guess what? Yep, another one-run loss. And just like yesterday, another one-run loss in which the Nats mounted a comeback but fell just short.

Or maybe the
Nationals Interest guys did:

The Nationals' starting pitcher pitched well, but the team's lack of offense and spotty defense gave the opponent the win in a close game. Sound familiar? It is the pattern to nearly all Washington Nationals games in July, including yesterday.

Well, you get the point. This was getting as tiresome as putting together that friggin' bookcase. But, whaddya know, the Nats received something along the lines of competent play from the shortstop . . .

[Aside: Is there any stupider play in baseball than intentionally walking a eunuch for an eighth hitter? I mean, I know the pitcher is up next and Guzman is having a once-in-blue-moon kind of day, but doesn't McKeon kind of have to figure---like all opposing managers do---that he's simply receiving a blessing that the eighth hitter is a de facto ninth hitter?]

. . . and witnessed Nick Johnson's first homer since June 7 and benefitted from ¡LIVAN! focusing his attention on tossing lots of pitches instead of making idle threats. As a great lyricist once said, it was a good day.


To no one's surprise, Bodes couldn't pull the A-K on any trades this weekend. But that's okay because , as we already know, Bodes loves this core group of guys. Heck, he loves it so much that, in his eyes, the 100-win first half pace was a sign of underachievement.

Well, okay: Bodes doesn't love the fellas that much, right? If I'm reading things right, Rocket Bill was feeding us The Effect ("Keep the core together") before The Cause ("Sellers wanted too much"). Bodes wanted more and couldn't get it. To that end, I'm guessing that Bowden wouldn't have minded parting with a "core" guy, but the jerks on the other end (the Mariners, for sure, and I'm betting the Devil Rays) wanted too many of them---or a "core" plus too much in the "prospect" sense, too. Or whatever.

At any rate, Rocket Bill gives us about a thousand percent more detail than Les Carpenter's article in the Post does. Per Rocket Bill:

According to Bowden, contending teams wanted players from the Nationals' farm system and young players from the Major League roster, but the teams were unwilling to give Washington a No. 1 starter or an impact power hitter.
Bowden wouldn't say which Minor Leaguers the opposing teams wanted, but according to a baseball source, pitchers Bill Bray, Armando Galarraga and Jason Bergman, as well as third baseman Kory Casto and shortstop Ian Desmond, were looked at.

I seriously doubt any of those guys are worth scuttling a trade over, but then again, I'm no GM. I'm not even Jim Bowden. And I agree (further on in the article) that Patterson-for-Guardado would have been lunacy.

Rocket Bill also notes that a late August veteran dump isn't out of the question, should the team continue to pull an '86 Orioles fade:

If the Nationals are out of the race before Sept. 1, they may be willing to trade some of their veterans in waiver-wire deals, but they are not going to give them away.
"We may have some pieces to trade in August, if we don't turn it around by the end of August," Bowden said. "People want our guys that are struggling, but they want to steal them. They don't want to give up prospects. They just want to take them. But we are not going to throw in the towel. We are [one game behind the Astros in the Wild Card race]. We have gone through a stretch. Those who have watched us everyday, it's hard to imagine us
winning a game, but it will pass."


We're not quite at the Boz, Booze, Potato in the Tailpipe stage yet, but Tom Boswell is feeling uneasy, man. He's continuing his season-long bipolar thing with the Orioles, this time feeling mournful over their extended tailspin and regretting that their hopes of the postseason are dead.

As for the Nats, Boz is not so enthusiastically researching exceptions to the Pythagorean theorem of baseball these days:

That's been the progression of the Nats, attracting less attention early in the year before becoming the sport's most flamboyantly successful team at midseason. Now, all since the Fourth of July, Washington has lived out every cynic's prediction of "returning to the mean."

And it also appears that I'm not the only one who thinks that the Nats have somehow angried-up-the-blood of those jerk baseball gods:

Most of this monsoon of Nats misery arrived after GM Jim Bowden risked angering the gods by proclaiming that his Nats might win the World Series even if he didn't add any more players. Jim, better check that waiver wire for Joe Hardy, quick.
Couldn't baseball have waited a little longer before delivering such a reality check? Apparently not. The threat of a sudden season-scorching collapse has always been a central part of the game's gallows lore. We're just getting a dastardly double dose.

Today's win was encouraging, but tonight's O's loss was rather ugly. (Did you know that ¡LIVAN! 's 144-pitch outing accounted for only 100 more pitches than Hot Rod Lopez hurled in the first inning alone?) It's abundantly clear that Boz just wants a local winner. I don't think August is going to be much more comforting to him, so it's best to station a nurse on twenty-four hour, 'round-the-clock watch.

You know, just in case.


All those Matt Cepicky worshippers in Nats Nation can rejoice, because Matt's back in the show, baby. According to Rocket Bill:

The Nationals made the move because they need another player who can come off the bench like infielder Carlos Baerga and be a successful pinch-hitter. They don't feel Byrd or Ryan Church can do the job at this time. [. . . ] The Nationals don't believe Byrd is a bench player and they want him to spend at least 30 days on his hitting mechanics. He has had serious problems hitting inside pitches.

I know I sliced-and-diced Rocket Bill's text a bit there, but things still don't make complete sense. This is the same Byrd who was heralded as a great fifth outfielder at the time of the Preston Wilson trade, right?

Also, I know that Church is hurting and came up lame in a couple of crucial late-game at-bats as a pinch-hitter, but is the answer really to call up a slower, older version of the same? What precisely makes Cepicky any more likely to fare appreciably better than Church in the role? He's been a full-timer at New Orleans, you know. Has he snuck Lenny Harris's pinch-hitting manifesto under his pillow?

Finally, and most importantly, does this mean that Jose Vidro is magically better? That would be nice, since Castilla's a gimp these days and, at last count, Baerga and Carroll were the only two bench reserves available to Robinson or Rodriguez or the Magic Eight Ball, or whoever manages the team these days. So, unless Vidro's healed quickly (and he wasn't in the lineup today), then while Cepicky's nice to have around I guess, it might have been advisable to summon Rick Short or---heaven forfend---Brendan Harris.


Cepicky assumed the roster space relinquished by Marlon Byrd, who was miffed, to say the least, at being optioned to New Orleans:

Byrd did not take the news well. He already was preparing for yesterday's game against the Florida Marlins when he was summoned into manager Frank Robinson's office. Upon learning he was being sent down, Byrd said nothing. He walked out of Robinson's office, hurriedly packed his bags, declined to talk to reporters and left. Robinson was not pleased with Byrd's actions. "That's about as bad as I've seen anyone take it," he said. "I would like for someone to be a bit more receptive to what we're saying. ... He had an attitude when he came in, he had an attitude while he was here and he had an attitude when he left."

Wow, yet another guy who can't get along with Robinson. Management really has to stop acquiring such bad apples, I guess. Ohka, Day, Vargas, Byrd: so many reprobates . . .


Harper at OMG has a fine look at the brave Nats who play in pain---and perform miserably doing so. His critique of the infield shortage, particularly the aspect of Vidro having to play in pain the other night because he was left with no other choice, roster-ly speaking, is spot-on. In addition, there's this tribute to Jose Guillen's blockheadedness:

He tweaked a shoulder injured in Late June. Jose initially injured it sliding head first, then he re-injured it sliding head first.


Lastly, submitted without comment, are the words of Cristian Guzman, who tries really hard:

"I try," the much-maligned shortstop said. "Every day I try. I don't care about going 0-for-4 or 4-for-4. Every time I play, I try to do something for my team."

Okay, one comment: Mark Zuckerman of the Times introduced the quote by saying that Guzman (prior to today's game) was mired in a 2-for-30 slump. Actually, it was 2-for-40.

But who's counting . . .

"I would like for someone to be a bit more receptive to what we're saying."

Bah. I'd rather have a guy be pissed that he's been sent down, rather than "OK boss! Whatever you say!"
Plus, maybe Marlon suspects Frank had something to do with the car theft. ;-)
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